Author Guest Post – Needle in the Haystack by Steve Dressing

Please give a huge warm welcome to debut author Steve Dressing. Steve joins me today with a great guest post, which I’m sure you will enjoy reading. Steve’s book Game Keepers was published on 14th May 2018, however, I will tell you more about that later. So, I now hand you over to Steve.

Needle in the Haystack

I’m a new, self-published author with a book I think will be enjoyed by many if they can just find it. Game Keepers is the first of what I hope will be several books I publish over the next few years through my own publishing company, Number 6 Publishing. Turning from my career as an environmental scientist to a publisher and author of books for kids is quite a change. It has been a lot of fun, but there have been many new things to learn, most of which come with an unpleasant price tag. The world isn’t particularly kind to authors in my situation, but we’re a group that doesn’t give up easily.

Getting to the point of selling the book was probably the easiest part of the journey for me. Marketing has been a huge challenge, particularly after purchases by friends and family dried up. I know that the faithful have told others about the book but even with my large family that only takes you so far. It feels like my book is simply a needle in a huge haystack competing against the thousands of books neatly displayed in huge bookstores and featured on major websites. How do I get people to even bother to check the haystack to see if there is something worthwhile inside?

Multiple outlets are being used to advertise the book, including social media, libraries, and book stores. That alone doesn’t set you apart, however, because this business is very competitive with an ever-growing group of talented new writers. Of all the possible outlets, I want most to be able to share my book with the local community. Game Keepers has a baseball theme, and I am currently a coach and an umpire in the neighborhood Little League. I find it unethical, however, to use my platform in the Little League to advertise. That has caused me to seek other outlets to reach this same community, outlets such as the local hardware store. One day I would like to do a book reading at the store with both new and old faces from my community.

I haven’t yet dreamed of being lost in one of Van Gogh’s beautiful piles of hay in his “Haystack in Provence”, but sometimes I feel that way. Sometimes I feel as if my story is covered by layers of inescapable hay. My hope is that people will come by, pick up a fork, and tear apart the haystack. Quickly the needle lost in the haystack becomes treasure.

Thank you so much, Steve, for the guest post. Writing and completing your book is hard, but I always think that the marketing side is even harder! I (and I’m sure the readers of my blog) wish you every success with Game Keepers.

Game Keepers by Steve Dressing

Baseball is no longer fun for the kids in the Waterfalls youth league after the playoff game ends in an ugly argument among parents and coaches. The players leave the ballpark in shame, but big George Starr kicks at the ground and everything changes.

An amazing adventure begins as they discover a magical world underground, Down Home, and encounter strange and magical beings who help them play better and have fun. Trouble begins, however, when several players break the rules of this new world.

An intruder presents them with a far greater challenge. Can they stop this trespasser and save Down Home without breaking even more rules and risking permanent banishment?

Purchase links: Amazon UK, Amazon US

About Steve Dressing

Writing has always been a passion for Steve Dressing. Throughout high school and continuing through graduate school, Steve turned to writing in the forms of poetry, creative writing, and story building.

When Steve and his wife decided that one of them should remain home to help raise the kids, Steve agreed that he should be the one. At this point, the children were beginning to write in school. Steve’s oldest daughter, Courtney, would frequently come home with a different story she had written. This and his experiences helping out at school and coaching caused Steve to rediscover his own passion for writing.

Steve found the stories that deserved to be written from his observations of the world around him, stories that empowered children, allowed kids to find their own meanings to life, and argued that children should be wide open to the many opportunities of their youth.

Author Influences with Sandy Day

Welcome to this week’s Author Influences. Today I welcome Sandy Day to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books to talk about her favourite books and authors. Sandy has been on my radar for a while as I have read loads of great reviews of her book, Fred’s Funeral. It is a book that I will be reviewing later this year and I will tell you more about it towards the end of this post.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
I read all the Anne books- that is, Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery. I read all the Misty books- the horsey ones by Marguerite Henry. And I read all the Jalna books- by Mazo de la Roche. I was into series.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
Without even trying, I was a teacher’s pet in the English class. I could read well before the age of six, and I liked to write stories as soon as I could spell- even before! I loved reading, so English class was a breeze to me. I was always writing, so the analyses of texts interested me on a personal level. Receiving positive feedback from teachers served to reinforce my passion for language.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I have always read literary fiction. Every now and then, I dabble in romance or crime or mystery but I don’t really love them unless they’re written in a literary style, that is, lots of metaphor and subtlety and an original use of words and structure. I aim for that in my own writing.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
Probably memoir. I’ve always been a bit of a confessional writer and have kept a journal since age eight. My fiction is usually based on real events so it would not be much of a stretch for me to write memoir.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
In grade 10 (age fourteen), I was introduced to Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. I have never been as blown away by a work as I was by that book. The subject matter (a cowboy outlaw), turned into poetry, turned into a narrative, mesmerized me. I’ve strived to write like that ever since.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Oh yes. Alice Munro- so sad she’s retired. Miriam Toews- I love her books.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews would be one of those books. The voice of the narrator, the subject matter (a Mennonite teenager living in Manitoba), the language and similes, the story (her complicated relationship with her father) – it’s still the best novel I’ve ever read. Coming-of-age stories are my favourites.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
My novel, Fred’s Funeral is based on the life of my Great Uncle, a shell-shocked WWI veteran. I wrote a disclaimer in the front of it apologizing in advance to my relatives for the poetic license I took with the facts. So far, they’ve all given me positive reviews.

Thank you for taking part, Sandy. My TBR pile has just got bigger!

Sandy’s novel Fred’s Funeral is out now. Here is what it’s about:

Only at his funeral, does a family come to know and love a long neglected and shell-shocked soldier from WWI. Based on a true story. Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to war, and his ghost hovers near the ceiling of the dismal nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish and disparaging sister-in-law. As Viola dominates the remembrance of Fred, his ghost agonizes over his inability to set the record straight. Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he shut away for most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Why didn’t his family help him more? Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.

You can buy a copy HERE.

About Sandy Day

Sandy Day is the author of Poems from the Chatterbox. She graduated from Glendon College, York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy spends her summers in Jackson’s Point, Ontario on the shore of Lake Simcoe. She winters nearby in Sutton by the Black River. Sandy is a trained facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and book coach.

Book Review – The Walls Came Down by Ewa Dodd

The Blurb

A young boy goes missing during a workers’ strike in 1980s Communist Poland, unravelling a chain of events which will touch people across decades and continents. Joanna, a young journalist in Warsaw, is still looking for her brother, who’s now been missing for over twenty years. Matt, a high-flying London city financier is struggling with relationship problems and unexplained panic attacks. And in Chicago, Tom, an old man, is slowly dying in a nursing home, losing his battle with cancer. What connects them? As the mystery begins to unravel, the worlds of the three protagonists are turned upside down. But can they find each other before time runs out?

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be able to read and review Ewa Dodd’s debut novel The Walls Came Down as it had so many elements that I love in a book. A triple timeline, three different countries (including one in Eastern Europe, which I love) and a mystery, The Walls Came Down sounded right up my street. And, I’m so pleased to say, that it was.

The Walls Came Down starts in 1980s Communist Poland when a young child, Adam, goes missing. We are then brought forward to 2010 and introduced to Matty in London, Joanna in Warsaw and Tom in Chicago. As each character tells their story via alternating chapters, we are left to wonder about the links between the three and where it will lead to.

Multiple points of view and threads can be a difficult thing to pull off, but Dodd does it with ease and all three work together really well, coming together beautifully at the end. Dodd has ensured that all three voices are distinct and I became fully invested in each. I have to admit, though, to having a special soft spot for Tom and his situation. Full of regret and guilt as he looks back over his life, Tom firmly wormed his way into my heart. Don’t read this book if you are feeling fragile as it is an emotional read and will result in the use of tissues!

I have a special affection for Eastern Europe, and I was delighted that part of the book was set in Warsaw, a city I hope to visit at some point in my life. While I didn’t get a true sense of place as The Walls Came Down is largely a character-based book, it didn’t really matter as I was so invested in each of the storylines and the glimpses I did get into Warsaw, I enjoyed. It does, however, provide an interesting glimpse into Warsaw’s tumultuous political history and I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.

The Walls Came Down is a book about loss, regret, self-discovery and how one action can have repercussions across decades and countries. I really enjoyed this emotional tale and look forward to reading more from Ewa Dodd in the future.

A huge thank you to Ewa for my copy of The Walls Came Down in exchange for my unbiased review.

You can get your copy HERE.

Cover Reveal – No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister

It’s been a while since I have taken part in a cover reveal but I could not resist being involved in this one as I have LOVED Gillian McAllisters previous books Everything But The Truth and Anything You Do Say (click on the titles to read my reviews).

So, before we see the cover here is what No Further Questions is about…

The police say she’s guilty.
She insists she’s innocent.

She’s your sister.
You loved her.
You trusted her.
But they say she killed your child.

Who do you believe?

Original, devilishly clever and impossible to forget, this is a thriller with a difference. You won’t be able to tear yourself away from the trial that will determine both sisters’ fates.

Oh. My. God. How good does that sound. But we are going to have to wait for a little while as No Further Questions is published on 2 July 2018. You can pre-order your copy HERE.

However, this is supposed to be a cover reveal, right? Well, here it is…

Whoop, whoop! Doesn’t it look and sound AMAZING??? I can’t wait!

Author Guest post – The Battle of the Bucket List Author by Urcelia Teixeira

I am delighted to welcome author of the Relic Chaser Adventures Urcelia Teixeira to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today. She has a great guest post for you to read and after I will tell you a little about her books. So, I will now hand you over to Urcelia.

The Battle of the Bucket List Author 

When I recently escaped my demanding brood and fled to the nearest coffee shop to finish my latest book, I soon found a complete stranger –all corporately dressed – pull up a chair at my invitation only table.

He had been sitting behind me and noticed that I was writing a book. I have no idea how long he’d been eyeballing my screen, but what followed was forty-five minutes of him sharing his dream to write and publish a book.

If you log onto Amazon or any of the massive online publishing portals, you’ll notice it’s flooded with – as I call them – ‘bucket list’ authors.
The stay-at-home moms, corporate dads, retirees or bookbloggers who have always had the desire to author a book are forced to succumb to the self-publishing monster to fulfill their dream. (Because let’s face it. You’d have to be JK Rowling or EL James to instantly get signed by a traditional publisher!)

And herein my confession… I am a proud bucket list author!

Yup, I am one of those who had the fulfilling corporate career, did my dues by raising three children (to where they are finally able to feed themselves!) and realized I only have about 20 years left before I am supposed to retire. (Yes! I’m 46!)

So, if not now, then when, right? And then came the self-doubt. That little voice in the back of your head that tells you the whole world will be laughing at you, so why bother?

Well, I did bother and have zero regrets! Yes! Even when my husband and kids had to resort to making their own two-minute noodles three nights in a row so I could finish another couple of chapters. I did it! I self-published not one, but two Archaeological Thrillers that will have Indiana Jones and Lara Croft cringing with jealousy! (Or so my reviewers keep telling me #grin). I have fans! Ones who actually want an autographed book and liken me to the Ernest Dempsey’s and Nick Thacker’s of the world!

But do you, the bookblogger, the avid reader, and dare I say publisher really know what goes on in the mind of a self-published author?

While I certainly can’t speak for the other bucket list authors out there, I most definitely can share what this bucket-list author endures on a daily basis.

Let’s start with the fact that I have to pop a pill every night just to switch my mind off from plotting a book good enough to sit next to my mentors, mentioned above, on the bestselling list. It never stops. Grocery stores, while driving my car, next to the soccer field even in church (Don’t judge me! Blame Alex Hunt!)

Point is; my mind is continually conjuring up exciting characters, ancient relic mysteries and evil criminals that will keep my readers coming back for more. I have become the catatonic zombie wife and mom, entirely self-absorbed and removed from my household because my mind is busy hunting down a relic in an underground tunnel in the middle of Cambodia somewhere. (Hint! Check out my latest book in the Alex Hunt series.)

Then, at some point, you heed to the advice of the professionals out there and fork out a small treasure to hire beta readers, editors, and proofreaders to turn your masterpiece into a scarlet canvas. Enter the devil on your shoulder that says you should stick to carpooling and take this dream off the bucket list! But you bounce back and keep going, tougher and stronger than before.

Then comes the copious amounts of self-marketing that tests your sales skills like never before! Years across multiple corporate sales industries left me totally unprepared for tackling this beast! The (I believe) sole reason so many authors chase after the coveted publishing contract. After all, they know all the shortcuts to beating Amazon’s algorithms and shoot you straight to #1 on the Amazon Bestseller lists; have the world’s best editors and book cover designers at hand and have a thousand book marketers fighting to get a copy of your book. What’s not to covet?

Which brings me to the much-needed book reviewers whom, as a new self-published author you simply cannot do without. But nothing grows a thicker skin than seeing that dreaded 1-star with the giant axe that chops you and your book to pieces and dooms you into slamming your laptop shut for two weeks while you lick your wounds. And we all get them. It’s an essential part of ‘growing up’; so don’t sweat the small stuff. Let the sarcasm and malicious word porn roll off your back and CARRY ON! It’s ok. It shapes you, humbles you, pushes you to do better and helps you learn from your mistakes.

So what’s left? Oh yes… the budget! Book marketing costs money; lots of it! Listing your book on large promo sites like Bookbub and Netgalley costs a small fortune (or a thirteen times bigger one if you live in South Africa and have to convert Rands!) Can you market your book for free? Absolutely, but it might take several books and years to get anywhere near any bestseller spot worthy of being discovered by hungry, adventurous readers.

What’s the moral of the story, you might ask?

Stay true to yourself as a bucket-list Author, don’t get discouraged and keep doing what you love! WRITE!

If I’ve missed anything or you wish to add more, do comment below or shoot me an email at

To sign up for my VIP reader’s list, please click HERE.

Massive thanks, Urcelia, for writing this great guest post. I really enjoyed reading it.

Urecelia has two books in the Relic Chaser Adventure series. Here is what they are about:

Alex Hunt and the Chase for Rhapta

I am Alex Hunt, daughter of the famous Archaeological Hunt Team. Head Researcher and… Relic Chaser!

When Alex Hunt’s mother tragically dies during her lifelong quest to find Africa’s ancient Lost City of Rhapta, Alex develops Agoraphobia (an unnatural fear of specific places and situations) and vows never to chase again.
So when her father, Professor Charles Hunt, Head of Archaeology at a prestigious British University mysteriously disappears several years later, it leaves her with no choice and forces her out of hiding to find him.

With nothing to lose, battling her worse fears and with the mighty University behind her, she travels to Tanzania, Africa in search of her missing father.

The chivalrous and charismatic Sam Quinn, the University’s illusive top Archaeology student accompanies her, and she finds herself in unfamiliar territory with a man who manages to chip away her self-built walls.

Her action-packed adventure through the treacherous African Jungle brings forth an abundance of danger, fear, and heartache as she rediscovers her love for life, science and ancient relics, beyond her cocooning existence and disease.

Will she find her father and the Lost City of Rhapta or will she die under the curse and the native-fearing Rhapter-bird said to guard the vanished city?

Alex Hunt and The Golden Urn

ALEX HUNT and SAM QUINN are back for another Action-packed Archaeological Adventure! This time, in the Cambodian jungle!
Finding The Golden Urn was supposed to be easy. Nothing the skilled Alex Hunt and Sam Quinn haven’t done before. But little did they know they would become the center of an international conspiracy. A conspiracy, so entangled in a web of secrets and crime that it could cost them their lives.

Faced with danger and underground syndicates, they soon realized they couldn’t trust anyone. Nothing was as it seemed.

After their return from The Lost City of Rhapta (Alex Hunt Adventures Book 1), Professor Charles Hunt retired and handed the reins to his daughter, Alex.

So, when the sacred Golden Urn believed to have contained Buddha’s remains, mysteriously disappeared from a mountain shrine in Cambodia, the Cambodian government hired the highly acclaimed pair for their assistance in finding the holy ancient relic and returning it to its rightful position in the Royal temple in Phnom Penh.

Alex and Sam were on the next plane to Cambodia in their quest to find the sacred Golden Urn. But what they encountered was far more than what they expected.

Would their pursuit for The Golden Urn put them through the ultimate test, or would it lead to the discovery of a relic no one even knew existed?

You can buy Urcelia’s books here:

Amazon UK and Amazon US

About Urcelia

An emerging author in Mystery Adventure Fiction, Urcelia’s inspiration for her novels emanate from her keen interest in all things mysterious. From vanished civilizations, ancient relics, and lost treasures to UFO’s, conspiracy theories and even Ghosts.

As a mother of three sons, she stands little to no chance not to be swept up in classics like Indiana Jones, National Treasure and The Mummy and often binge-watches Netflix mystery series like Stranger Things, with her husband.

Her novels are generally based on true-life historical legends, which she turns upside down into page-turning Action & Adventure Mystery fiction, and occasionally Romance Mystery Fiction; suited to readers from 15+.

She loves travel and solving mysteries and can’t resist sharing her adventures with her readers.

Connect with Urcelia:

Facebook: @urceliabooks

Twitter: @UrceliaTeixeira

Instagram: urceliateixeira


Author Influences with Mary Grand

I am absolutely delighted to welcome Mary Grand to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today for this week’s instalment of Author Influences.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
It was only as I started compiling a list of favourite reads as a child that I realised there is a theme running though them.
Initially there was ‘Tinker the Kitten’ by Lucienne Erville, the story of a black and white kitten that climbs over the garden wall and finds himself in a new scary world. I moved on to the “My Naughty Little Sister” stories by Dorothy Edwards, the very innocent exploits of a little girl which seemed to me very daring at the time. Finally there was of course Enid Blyton and the series I loved was called ‘The Naughtiest Girl in the School’
So I appear to have liked reading about children (and cats!) that enjoyed breaking the rules, being a bit rebellious. As an extremely conforming child I guess, like many children, I found in reading a safe way to escape the mundane, to know the thrill of going to new places and ways of living.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
All through my childhood I went to the library every Saturday, firstly taken by my dad and then on the bus with my friend. I can still remember asking my dad what books I was allowed to borrow and he said ‘Anything Mary, you can read whatever you want.’ I couldn’t believe that I really could read any book I wanted!
However I didn’t really get into my stride with English in school until I went into the sixth form. Here I had the most wonderful English teacher, Miss Duffield. I remember her as being the only teacher in a large comprehensive that still had the class stand when she entered, and she would hang her Jaeger jacket on a coat hanger at the beginning of each lesson. She brought books alive to me; I loved everything she taught me from Orwell, to Chaucer, Shakespeare and Jane Austin.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the
genre you write?
I like reading all sorts, depending on my mood. I think becoming a writer has made me more adventurous and I have been introduced to all kinds of genres by people I have met online and on courses. My main stays would be Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction and Crime. Although I write Women’s Fiction I am sure I have been influenced by the amount of crime I have read and all my books have strong element of mystery to be solved.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I would love to write a murder mystery one day. I love reading them and working out all the different twists and turns. I would also love to write a historical novel: I really enjoy research and escaping back in time.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write?
And if so who, what and why?
I wouldn’t say it was one particular writer. However I had been reading a number of writers such as Jodi Picoult and Amanda Prowse who showed me you could write about difficult subject matter in a gripping and accessible way. In one novel, ‘Hidden Chapters’, I wrote about adoption, living with Deafness and also about addiction. The story was set in wonderful Rhossili Bay, and there are elements of romance and mystery added in. I think it makes sense to combine all these elements. Life isn’t just one thing; tragedy and heartbreak sit next to joy, wonder, and new life. There is also, of course all the stuff in between; the shopping, the picking the children up from school, it’s a rich tapestry.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Sarah Dunant is one of my favourite authors. She manages to combine great characters with gripping plot and seamlessly interweaves into this her extensive knowledge of renaissance Italy.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I
had written that’ and what was it about the book?
There are a quite a few books like that but I think I would plump for ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier. I love her development of character, plot, and her incredible skill in description and creating atmosphere. This is one of many quotes I love:
“When the leaves rustle, they sound very much like the stealthy movement of a woman in evening dress, and when they shiver suddenly, and fall, and scatter away along the ground, they might be the patter of a woman’s hurrying footsteps, and the mark in the gravel the imprint of a high-heeled shoe.”

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
My first novel ‘Free to Be Tegan’ is partly based on my upbringing in a religious cult. To create the main antagonist, Daniel, the cult leader, I used my own experiences of a number of teachers within my sect combined with a lot of research into the whole subject of cult leaders. One of the things that struck me was how often the fear I had known was used as a weapon of control. I also read that, like some of the people I had encountered, many cult leaders had charm and charisma I used all these elements in creating the character of Daniel. It was important to me that my protagonist Tegan not only left the cult but developed an understanding of what had happened to her. Her confrontation with Daniel is a pivotal point in her story.

Thank you for taking part, Mary. I really enjoyed reading your answers. 

Mary’s latest novel ‘Behind the Smile’ is out now and available to buy HERE. Here’s what it’s about:

An emotionally charged, totally gripping story that will keep you turning the pages late into the night. Lowri is pregnant, looking forward to a new life with her lover, Simon. But her plans are shattered. She finds herself alone, her face scarred, her future uncertain. Her estranged husband, Jack, proposes they “settle” for each other, and raise Lowri’s unborn child on the Isle of Wight, in the idyllic village of Elmstone. Lowri is befriended by Carina, the beautiful Italian woman living in Elmstone Manor, and Heather, the popular local café proprietor. However, she soon discovers that no-one is the person they appear. What dark secrets is Heather hiding from her family and from the village? Why is Carina desperate for Lowri to fail in her new life and prepared to go to increasingly desperate lengths to destroy her? As she confronts her own insecurities, and faces another devastating loss, will Lowri find the courage to be proud of the person she is hiding behind the smile? Will she find true love amid the confusion and intrigue?

About Mary Grand

I was born in Cardiff and have retained a deep love for my Welsh roots. I worked as a nursery teacher in London and later taught Deaf children in Croydon and Hastings.
I now live on the beautiful Isle of Wight with my husband, where I walk my cocker spaniel Pepper and write. I have two grown up children.
‘Free to Be Tegan’ was my debut novel. The second ‘Hidden Chapters’ is set on the spectacular Gower Peninsula. I have also published two short books of short stories ‘Catching the Light’ and ‘Making Changes’. ‘Catching the Light’ is also available as an audio book, narrated by Petrina Kingham.

Twitter: @authormaryg
Amazon Author Page:

Review – Docherty by William McIlvanney

The Blurb

‘His face made a fist at the world. The twined remnant of umbilicus projected vulnerably. Hands, feet and prick. He had come equipped for the job.’

Newborn Conn Docherty, raw as a fresh wound, lies between his parents in their tenement room, with no birthright but a life’s labour in the pits of his small town. But the world is changing, and, lying next to him, Conn’s father Tam has decided that his son’s life will be different from his own.

Gritty, dark and tender, McIlvanney’s Docherty is a modern classic.

My Thoughts

Set in the early 20th Century, William McIlvanney’s Docherty is a searing indictment of the lives of the Scottish working classes during this time period, and a brutal but honest look at the conditions they faced, economically, socially and politically.

It follows the lives and fates of the Docherty family and starts when Conn Docherty is born. The Docherty family live in a small pit village in Scotland and on the birth of his fourth child, father Tam Docherty swears that this child will lead a different life to him.

Tam Docherty is a hard but gentle man; respected by his peers and loved by his family. A firm believer that the men and women of his class deserve more, he wants nothing more than for life to be different for his children. Unfortunately, achieving that is not simple when you live in the shadow of the coal mine. There is an air of inevitability about the book as we quickly see that there is no room for manoeuvre when you are born into the lower classes. As opportunities are stripped away from them, the Docherty children have to make do with what life has presented to them.

Docherty is incredibly heart breaking and yet McIlvanney also manages to interject wry humour and this is demonstrated from the outset. It is a reflection of how the people in this close-knit community cope with the hardships they have been handed.

All of the characters are strongly written and they all make a huge impression on you. We see how each of Tam and Jenny Docherty’s children react to their situation and the ways in which the parents struggle but manage to provide for them. They are brought to life through McIlvanney’s use of colloquial language and while it can take some getting used to for a non-Scot it is worth it. As we follow Mick, Kathleen, Angus and Conn as they grow into adults, we see how their social circumstances impact on them and the way they go on to live their lives.

Docherty provides an exploration of poverty and how those living in the dire circumstances cope. There is a strong emphasis on the moral code that the inhabitants of Graithnock adhere to and a real sense of a support network. That’s not to say that everything is perfect, it is far from it, but it is these things that help them survive the harshness of their everyday life.

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of claustrophobia while reading Docherty. It’s as though the characters have become all-consumed by their poverty and, as a result, their surroundings. When one of the Docherty boys attempts to escape via enlisting as a soldier, he returns from WWI to find this has further entrenched his place in Graithnock. The lack of any ability to escape is a sad reflection of Great Britain at the turn of the century.

Full of grit, rage and despair, yet interspersed with dry, Scottish humour, Docherty is an uncomfortable read but an essential read. If you like your literature to be unflinching in its depiction of life at the harshest end of the scale you will enjoy Docherty.

Published on 3 November 2016 by Canongate you can get your copy HERE.

My thanks go to Canongate for the copy of Docherty in exchange for my review.

Blog Tour – The Old You by Louise Voss *Review*

I am delighted to be one of the stops on the blog tour for The Old You by Louise Voss today. This book is a bit of a cracker but before I share my thoughts let’s find out what it is about.

The Blurb

Nail-bitingly modern domestic noir
A tense, Hitchcockian psychological thriller
Louise Voss returns with her darkest, most chilling, novel yet…

Lynn Naismith gave up the job she loved when she married Ed, the love of her life, but it was worth it for the happy years they enjoyed together. Now, ten years on, Ed has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and things start to happen; things more sinister than lost keys and missing words. As some memories are forgotten, others, long buried, begin to surface … and Lynn’s perfect world begins to crumble.
But is it Ed’s mind playing tricks, or hers…?

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, Louise Voss’s The Old You is a startling example of how to write the domestic noir! Why? Let me explain…

The plot centres around Lynn Naismith and her older husband Ed. Lynn gave up everything to be with Ed and she has been happy in their marriage. However, when Ed is diagnosed with Pick’s Disease, a form of early onset dementia, not only does Lynn have to contend with her husband losing his memory but also strange, inexplicable things that begin to happen.

Voss writes in such a way that the plot of The Old You kind of creeps up on you and there are numerous moments that knock you for six. It is unnerving in its depiction of what could actually happen as Lynn watches the dementia completely alter her husband’s personality. As the story unfolds, Voss ratchets up the tension and there is an overarching sense of unease and, in a strange way, it made feel a little claustrophobic. I guess this comes from the fact that the fear is centred around the confines of Lynn’s marriage and home.

Constantly keeping you on the back foot and looking for clues, Voss has crafted an intricate and clever plot. As revelation after revelation are revealed I was unsure of who I could trust in the telling of this story, and I had no idea which way the plot would go next. I have always been a fan of books and films in which you doubt the sanity and reliability of the main character/narrator and Voss pulls this off wonderfully.

Voss’s writing is fantastic throughout with beautifully phrased lines that resonate with you and make you think. It opened up my mind to how it must feel living with someone whose mind is being affected by disease and the sense of loss of both your loved one and your old life. It has clearly been meticulously researched to make it authentic.

We get glimpses into Lynn and Ed’s life prior to his diagnosis. Despite these switches in time throughout the storyline, Voss manages to ensure that the atmosphere of the current storyline is not lost or diminished in any way.

I loved The Old You, and I would go as far as saying if you only read one domestic noir this year make it this one as you will be hard pushed to find better. Tense, chilling and cleverly plotted.

Published on eBook on 28 February 2018 and paperback on 15 May 2018 by Orenda Books. You can get a copy HERE.


About the Author

Over her eighteen-year writing career, Louise Voss has had eleven
novels published – five solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards: a
combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and
contemporary fiction – and sold over 350,000 books. Louise has an
MA (Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant
and mentor for writers at She lives in
South-West London and is a proud member of two female crimewriting
collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.

My thanks go to Louise Voss, Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for the copy of The Old You and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Catch the rest of the tour…

Author Influences with Catherine Kullmann

Welcome to another edition of Author Influences. This week my guest is the lovely Catherine Kullman, author of Perception and Illusion and The Murmur of Masks.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
I read voraciously as a child. I had tickets for two libraries and went to both at least twice a week. Authors I remember include Susan Coolidge (What Katy Did and sequels), Louisa M Alcott (Little Women and sequels) Enid Blyton (Everything, but my favourites were the Adventure series), Rex Dixon (Pocomoto series—about an orphan boy brought up two old prospectors in the ‘wild west’), Elinor M Brent-Dyer (Chalet School series). I also read a lot of non-fiction, in particular biography. In my teens, I moved on to Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Dickens, Trollope, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers, and Irish authors such as Frank O’Connor. I also read a lot of poetry and essays. I loved the romantic poets and the metaphysical ones such as John Donne and essayists such as Charles Lamb and Joseph Addison. Looking back, it is easy to see that I was laying the foundations for writing historical fiction set in the early nineteenth century.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I loved it and was very good at it. We had anthologies of prose and poetry at school and each year would study a different selection but I read them cover to cover. I also loved writing essays, whether relating to the texts we studied or on more general themes.

What genres do you like to read?
I love reading historical fiction but when reading for pleasure tend to look for eras and/or locations outside my own. I also like historical crime, especially set pre WWII. I would read more contemporary crime but find a lot of what is written today bleak and very violent. Favourite authors still writing include Sara Donati (historical), Susanna Kearsley (historical– dual timeline) Barbara Cleverly (Historical mystery) Margaret Maron, Wendy Hornsby ( both contemporary mystery). I also love Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, and Nalini Singh, all of whom write urban fantasy/paranormal romance.

Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
All of the above writers are excellent story-tellers and I am sure that I have learnt a lot from them.

I also read a lot of nineteenth century writing – novels, poetry, memoirs, autobiography, journals, magazines, children’s books etc. etc. Reading works that are contemporary to my period gives me an excellent insight into it and inspires me in so many ways.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I am very happy where I am at present. If anything, I might experiment with a different form, such as a short story, or even poetry.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
Every author who has gripped me and taken me into their world has encouraged me. Specifically, Jane Austen who transformed the English novel, bringing a deceptive lightness and ironic comedy to what previously had been overly sensational, moralistic or both, and Georgette Heyer who was the creator of the Regency novel as historical fiction.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
All the ones mentioned in No. 3 above.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Susanna Kearsley’s A Desperate Fortune. The two stories, those of Jacobite Mary who keeps a secret journal in the eighteenth century and modern-day Sara who is trying to decode it, are gripping, thrilling and touching. Mary and Sara are so different and so real, the characterization is wonderful and the treatment of Sara, in particular, very moving.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Not consciously, but as they all emerge from my subconscious, I am sure they have.

Thank you for taking part, Catherine. I really enjoyed reading your responses to my questions.


Catherine’s latest book, Perception and Illusion, is out now. Here is what it’s about:

Does a fairy-tale ending always guarantee Happy Ever After?

England 1814: Brought up by her late grandparents after the death of her mother, Lallie Grey is unaware that she is their heiress. When her father realises that he will soon lose control of his daughter’s income, he conspires to marry her off to his crony, Frederick Malvin in exchange for a share of her capital. But Lallie has fallen in love with Hugo Tamrisk, heir to one of the oldest titles in England. When Hugo not only comes to her aid as she flees the arranged marriage, but later proposes to her, all Lallie’s dreams have come true. She readily agrees to marry him at once.

But past events casts long shadows. Hugo resents the interest his three elder sisters take in his new wife and thinks they have turned her against him. And then there is his former mistress, Sabina, Lady Albright. As Lallie finds her feet in the ton, the newly-weds are caught up in a comedy of errors that threatens their future happiness. She begins to wonder if he has regrets and he cannot understand her new reserve. A perfect storm of confusion and misunderstanding leads to a final rupture when Lallie feels she has no choice but to leave. Can Hugo win her back? Will there be a second, real happy end for them?

You can get your copy HERE.

About Catherine

Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. She is married and has three adult sons and two grandchildren.

Catherine has always been interested in the extended Regency period, a time when the foundations of our modern world were laid. She loves writing and is particularly interested in what happens after the first happy end—how life goes on for the protagonists and sometimes catches up with them. She is the author of The Murmur of Masks and Perception & Illusion. Both books are set against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars and consider in particular the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society.

You can find out more about Catherine and her books at her website where she also blogs about historical facts and trivia in her Scrap Album. Her Facebook author page is


Review – Last Goodbye by Arlene Hunt

The Blurb

Every couple has their secrets …

‘The woman’s body lay on the bed, hair fanned out in a golden halo, blue eyes open. On the table stood an unmistakable sign: a bouquet of bright yellow roses…’

On a freezing January morning, a young couple is found dead in their cottage in the quiet Dublin suburbs. When Detective Eli Quinn arrives at the scene his stomach drops. It’s the second double homicide in as many months where the killer has left a bunch of yellow roses.

Tucked between the thorns is a little card, with an image of a broken heart. There’s no doubt the killer is trying to send a message, but what do the flowers mean? And can Eli figure out the killer’s motive, before they strike again?

Utterly gripping, fast-paced and nail-bitingly tense, this serial killer thriller will keep you up reading all night. If you love Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott and Patricia Gibney, you won’t be able to put this down.

My Thoughts

Last Goodbye is the first in a new detective series by Arlene Hunt. I thoroughly enjoyed Last To Die and waited eagerly for her latest novel.

Somebody is killing couples in Dublin and at each murder scene there is a bunch of yellow roses left and the female is laid out in a certain way. Quinn and Malloy find themselves on a desperate hunt to catch the killer before he/she strikes again.

Last Goodbye is set in Dublin and it introduces us to DI Eli Quinn and DS Roxy Malloy. Quinn is the experienced murder detective compared to Malloy who is a week into her probationary period as a DS. In this first book we get more of a sense of Roxy’s character and it is clear that there is a lot more to come as the series progresses. I did wonder while reading if Roxy has Asperger’s as she is not comfortable in the presence of people and lacks social niceties. Although she comes across as quite cold, I really warmed to her and found some of her observations funny and accurate. Her obvious discomfort around Garda Officer Cora Simmons who is chatty, outgoing and the direct opposite to Roxy’s introverted personality was well portrayed and I really liked Hunt’s characterisations.

The antagonist in Last Goodbye is incredibly unnerving. We are treated to chapters that are devoted to him and his thought processes and motivations. One thing I loved about Last To Die was Hunt’s portrayal of the killer and she doesn’t disappoint in Last Goodbye. Her ability to get beneath his skin makes the book all the more compelling as, let’s face it, we all want to understand the motivations behind killings. It’s the care that is taking into the insight of the killer’s mind that makes Last Goodbye a great read rather than a good read. It is incredibly chilling and becomes even more so when you read Hunt’s note at the end of the book.

The pacing is perfect as Last Goodbye steams ahead and the interspersing chapters from the perspective of the killer enhances the pace rather than detracts from it. I raced through this book and each twist had me holding my breath.

A great start to a new series, I am looking forward to meeting Quinn and Malloy in the next book. If you like police procedurals, being totally unnerved by a chillingly realistic serial killer and a fast-paced plot you will love Last Goodbye.

Last Goodbye is published on 22 May 2018 by Bookouture and you can get a copy HERE.

Thanks to Arlene Hunt, Bookouture and Netgalley for the copy in exchange for my review.

Read my review of Last To Die here.